Newspaper Articles – Issue 2
THE REST IS UP TO HIM
by Mr. Curt
“We never collaborate on anything, it’s purely a matter of giving him the lyrics, him working on them and the getting together afterwards. It wouldn’t be easier to do it the other way round… I wouldn’t have room to say anything…”
– Bernie Taupin
“All these people spend all this time creating masterpieces. I could never believe they took themselves so seriously. I hate that … why do I come on stage in a cape as opposed to dirty denims and a T-shirt? that’s part of the fun … never take yourself too seriously. We’re always sending each other up, and that’s the whole thing about it … just be natural and have a laugh “
– Elton John
With the release of “Here & There,” the newest Elton John LP, a thought arises: has Elton worked himself into a corner with continuous product? Or are his writing talents dulled by touring and other business pressures? “Rock of the Westies” was a limp showing after the autobiographic “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Greatest Hits,” which seemed a strange release at the time, considering the escalating state his career had taken. But the hits album only followed another mild disappointment, “Caribou,” which had been (and still continues to be) overshadowed by the fabulous “Yellow Brick Road”…..oh well, it seems that E.J. (and to a very important extent, Bernie Taupin) needs his musical senses overhauled once a year, or perhaps a reduction of output to counter the growing doubts about his waning prolificacy. He seems capable of producing one or two great albums a year, only if they’re well thought out, and not given over to commercial necessities.
Another facet of his recording/touring career over the past year and a half is the shake-up of his ensemble. Like another pop-rock crooner (Paul McCartney?), Elton is a crafted perfectionist when it comes to M.O.R. – styled presentation. Where three people used to augment his plans, only six will suit his present needs. And this growing concern is reflected in the large, lush sound his band can produce. He, too, is concerning himself about finding the perfect amalgamation beyond his own musical entity. If so, this live-album fodder will only serve to give Elton the time to compose for his new band, with each member’s talent responsive to his styles and mods. A singular talent: yes! A soloist: not yet!
If ever a musician remains unspoiled by their success, it goes without saying that their scope far exceeds the desires. Elton John’s visions have never been heavy-handed or pedantic, yet one always senses an underlying awareness and balance (between music and lyrics) that many other popular entertainers never achieve. It is not difficult to call Elton one of pop’s most versatile artists, who is able to turn right around and perform a most enchanting ballad (ie-“Rocket Man”) in addition to stompin’ hard rockers (“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”). And maintaining an astonishing career in addition to a compositional partnership can prove harrying. Of the three major British bands who used a specialized composer (Gary Brooker/Keith Reid: Procol Harum; Peter Sinfield/King Crimson; and Elton/Bernie), only Elton has moved towards a continuing successful future of immense stature.
A performer in the public eye for more than fifteen years, culminating with his meteoric rise in the past few years, Elton John has the international acclaim awarded to only a few. He has pioneered pop-rock with a dynamic presence and vitality that speaks from his heart as well as his mind. The work behind his phenomenal achievements has passed. . . . will an even more brilliant composer evolve? Such a struggle must present itself to many superstars-those who maintain a consistently high intake of success–or perhaps the struggle is in coordinating the right flow between Bernie and Elton . . . cause when they fit perfectly, you get hits and more HITS. But a level of consistency cannot be mechanical-especially for a sincere composer/performer like Elton; so when his recorded work is affected, one begins to ponder. . . . for whom is he making music? When his records go gold or platinum before/upon release, where does objectivity fit in. . . or, does quality continue to be an earmark or just a passing gesture?
There is a new album due later this year from Elton & Co. From my earlier configurations, this should be a killer-perhaps a bigger, harder sound. As Bernie/Elton continue to mature as songwriters, they are sure to produce even if their coordination has been ruffled. Energetic writers often gain strength and insight from adverse situations and too-long vacations. Meanwhile, fans wait anxiously . . .